It’s true what they say…
“The closer the border, the better the tacos!”
Growing up in Southern California and living here my entire life (so far), I never realized how lucky I am to have an abundance of taquerias serving up mouthwatering tacos everywhere I turn. It wasn’t until I traveled outside of my hometown that I discovered other people may not be as fortunate as I am to have an affordable and tasty option for lunch and dinner. Since then, I have been hunting down the best taco spot that I can declare to be my go-to. Unknowingly, tacos are my favorite food and I am here to help those deprived of some delicious tacos in their OC lives. Here is a list of the tacos in Orange County (I have tried so far – I will consistently add to the list as I try new places).
Disclaimer: This post is mainly based on Asada and Al Pastor (since that’s the only meats I like) but I will include other types of meats and opinions of other people who have tried with me.
Authentic tacos. Currently standing, Tacos Manuel is my favorite local taco truck. Not only are the grilled onions and salsas a great addition to my tacos, but the tacos themselves are very juicy and flavorful. The grilled onions are free, grilled to perfection, and available with all taco orders. There is a decent variety of tasty salsas to satisfy people at different ends of the spice spectrum.
The tacos are about $1.25 each (with an additional cost for specialized meats). I’ve eaten at Tacos Manuel on multiple occasions, however, they tend to run out of meats towards the end of the day so come early! I’ve had the Asada, Al Pastor, and Chorizo tacos and they were all fantastic. The only thing I didn’t enjoy at Tacos Manuel is their burrito. Although massive in size, it was very underwhelming and mostly made up of beans and cheese. Also, the jalapenos they give you are no joke! Bite with caution.
Tacos Manuel is always parked in the same spot, in a neighborhood next to a shopping plaza. The neighborhood may have limited parking spots available so it might be a little difficult to find parking. There are no tables or chairs set up so if you eat it there, you will need to stand.
Alebrijes Grill Taco Truck
Authentic tacos. Deep in Santa Ana next to a Northgate Supermarket, parks Alebrijes Grill Taco truck. Highlighted in the OC Weekly and OC Register as “Home of the Taco Acorazado”, Alebrijes feeds its customers with a variety of tacos, burritos, tortas, gorditas, mulitas and other items with 10 different meat options. It is swarmed by hungry taco-eating carnivores looking to leave satisfied with their $1.50+ tacos. The tacos come complimentary topped with grilled onions and cactus (not green bell peppers like I originally thought). Alebrijes also has 4 different salsas to choose from, just make sure you ask for salsa containers and napkins!
The tacos are rather massive, packed with a lot of meat so order accordingly. Per usual, I ordered the Asada and Al Pastor tacos. The Asada taco left little to be desired and the al pastor was pretty greasy. However, I am told that the Tripas taco is where it’s at! Most places serve them undercooked and soft while others don’t clean out the insides of the intestines, but at Alebrijes, they do and it’s very crispy.
There is a small row of chairs set up for you to sit and wait for your tacos or to ingest them. Typically people park in the Northgate parking lot. Be careful and drive safely as it tends to get very crowded and hectic there.
Authentic tacos. An often overlooked taco truck hidden in a street around the corner from Carl’s Jr. and Del Taco. Driving down Harbor on a daily basis, one would take notice of a little red taco truck from time to time. It just takes that little extra effort and time to make the move and turn onto Moore street to take a chance at El Taquero.
This is a no-frills taco truck. Tacos start at $1.25 for Asada, Al Pastor and Pollo and an extra $.50 for the specialty meat (Tripa, Lengua, Cabeza, etc.). Add cheese to your tacos, such as Choriqueso, Pastor con Queso or Pollo con Queso for $1.50. Everything is fresh and made to order. There is a table available for seating if you want to eat it immediately. The green and red sauces, along with pickled onions are available for self-service.
I ordered the Pastor con Queso and Carne Asada taco to take home. When I opened it up to eat it at home, it was still piping hot. The melted cheese was sticking to the foil but it was a great addition to the Pastor taco. I enjoyed eating the Pastor con Queso over the Asada, but they were both pretty satisfying. The meat was not dry as I feared, however, I am not a big fan of their sauces, as they are a bit sour and not spicy.
The Classic Taco
Authentic tacos. My friend raves about The Classic Taco and really enjoyed the tacos. However, I thought the tacos were decent but nothing too spectacular. The salsas here, however, are top notch! There are some salsas that may not sound like it would taste good, but it actually does. The salsas range from mild to hot and interesting flavors such as pineapple.
This taco truck travels around so be sure to check their social media for their locations. There are no tables and chairs for you to sit down and eat so you will have to eat standing up. Most of the time though, The Classic Taco truck is parked outside of businesses such as breweries so you can pair your tacos with a cold one!
Taqueria el Burrion
Located in Garden Grove, this orange taco truck Taqueria el Burrion is serving up $1.25-$1.75 tacos (depending on the meat) 5 days a week in front of a park. Tacos are not just all they offer, you can choose from burritos, tortas, and quesadillas as well. Be sure to go early, as specific types of meat do run out. The Tripa and Lengua are the first to go.
Per usual, I got the Al Pastor and Asada tacos and they were tasty. The meat was flavorful and my favorite part was the tortilla. It was cooked just right as it was a little crispy. There is a salsa bar outside of the truck with 3 different salsas to choose from. They also give you peppers with your tacos but bite with caution.
Keep in mind that it is cash only! There are only a few chairs available for seating. Taqueria el Burrion is located in front of a parking lot so you don’t have to worry about finding parking.
Taqueria El Zamorano
Authentic tacos. Off to the side of Flower and Warner street sits Taqueria El Zamorano. I remember when this little shack used to be Taco 2 Guys. Oh, how times have changed. With tacos priced at $2.25, it is expected to be larger than a typical street taco. The meat options are Asada, Carnitas, Al Pastor, Pollo, and Chorizo. For 74 cents more, you can get Cabeza, Tripa or Lengua. What makes Taqueria El Zamorano different than most taquerias, the answer lies in their handmade tortillas.
Taqueria El Zamorano does not only serve up tacos, but also tortas, combination plates, and Asada fries or nachos. Agua frescas are also available to wash it all down. To get here can be a bit difficult due to the limited parking and tables available. There is also a $5 minimum credit card charge (with $1 fee if you are under $5).
I ordered Asada and Pastor tacos to eat there. The Asada meat was a bit tough to chew and the pastor was slightly better and more tender. Although the handmade tortillas are a nice addition, the overall taco was not very impressive. I also got a pina agua fresca (pineapple drink) and it was super watered down. Not understanding the high reviews on Yelp, I would pass on this place next time.
925 W Warner Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92707
Gourmet tacos. Not your average tacos, Pier 76 is doing something right as they put a creative spin on fish tacos. These fish tacos have a great burst of flavors by marrying the flavors of tangerine, cabbage, and homemade sauce with the fish. The flavors are unique, unreplicated, and has me coming back for more.
Although a small restaurant, there is outdoor seating available as well. I enjoyed sitting outside and feeling my skin absorb the warmth of the sun. The “MASSIVE” smoked fish tacos are $7.96 (for 2) on regular days and $1.99 per taco during Taco Tuesdays.
Various locations in Long Beach, Cerritos, and Tustin. 15080 Kensington Park Dr., Ste 330, Tustin, CA 92782
Taco Tuesdays are available!
Tacos Los Reyes
Authentic tacos. In the city of Orange, Tacos Los Reyes seems to be the most popular taqueria shop with tacos starting at $1.75 (Lengua is available for $1 more). The value of the taco is fair as it is a bigger size than the normal street taco, filled with double the amount of meat, and wrapped in two corn tortillas. The meat is moist and does not dry out. It is topped with cilantro, onions, and a bit of sauce. To improve the taste of the tacos, I would ask for extra sauce or hope they will soon add a salsa bar to adjust the tacos to the preferred tasting. Chips and salsa are available if you dine there. If you decide to take it to go, you need to pay for them. The salsa provided is pretty spicy, which I do enjoy but may not be for everyone.
I overheard someone in line say that Tacos Los Reyes was on television and it was recommended to get carnitas.
273 S Tustin St, Orange, CA 92866
Authentic tacos. Known for its fish tacos but they also serve up other types of taqueria meats as well, such as Asada, Chicken, Carnitas, al Pastor for $1.49 each. There are two types of fish tacos, Ensenada and Cabo tacos, both available in fish or shrimp. The Cabo tacos consist of Grilled Wahoo ($2.79) and Grilled Shrimp ($2.99). Tacos are not just their only items, they also have burritos, quesadillas, bowls, combo plates, and nachos.
Holé Molé is a chain restaurant with a salsa bar. Be sure to ask for some of their grilled peppers. What goes well with your tacos? Beer, of course! Some locations sell beers in pitchers or pint glasses, as well as micheladas. For dessert, they serve fried ice cream, flanquitos, and root beer floats.
Grab your friends and have a couple of drinks at your local Holé Molé on Tuesday for their Taco Tuesdays where Ensenada Fish, Asada, Chicken, Carnitas, and Al Pastor are $1.19 each and Shrimp Taco is $1.99 each.
Tip: I typically try to get tacos here for lunch so I would call ahead for pick up.
Taco Tuesdays are available!
Gourmet tacos. A different take on traditional tacos with a fun flair. Some of the tacos that Taco Asylum is crafting up include the Shortrib, Bacon PB&J, Steak Chimichurri, Buffalo Fried Chicken, Banh Mi (we won’t get into the whole Banh Mi is literally “bread” in Vietnamese thing) and Philly Cheese Steak. Judging by the flavors, you know they are not your ordinary tacos and come from various cuisines.
I got the short rib taco and the ghost chili pork. The short rib taco was better than the ghost chili pork, which was a bit dry and lacking flavor. The short rib taco was also not as juicy as I hoped it to be. The best part of the whole meal? Their hot sauce bottles. I love their sauces. This was the savior of my meal! There is Chipotle, Honey Habanero, Ghost Scream and Ghost Chili. The Ghost Chili and Ghost Scream were my favorites! They are spicy, you have been warned!
Tacos and beer pair well together and Taco Asylum knows this. There are a decent amount of craft beers available as well as daily flavors of agua fresca. When I went, it was Tangerine flavor.
Taco Asylum can get crowded as the restaurant is on the smaller side. You might need to wait for a table but it is a first come first serve and parties of 2 are a lot easier to find a place for.
2937 S Bristol St b102, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Taco Tuesdays are available!
Authentic tacos. Hole in the wall, known for their Blacken Fish Tacos! Everyone seems to be ordering this taco, whether it be to take out or to dine there. Although there is a variety of tacos you can get for $2.25 on regular days, Chicken, Asada, Carnitas and Blacken Fish tacos are only $1.50 each on Tuesdays. The tacos are bigger than your average “street tacos”.
There is a self-serve salsa bar available loaded with salsa, cucumbers, onions and pickled jalapeño peppers. If you decide to dine at Taco Grill, there are indoor and patio seating but it fills up quickly, especially on Tuesdays. The interior is pretty small with a few tables available. You get free chips with each purchase!
8481 Heil Ave, Westminster, CA 92683
Taco Tuesdays are available!
Panderia Y Taqueria Las Maripozas
Authentic tacos. On the outside, the sign says Taqueria Don Pancho, but on the inside, this taqueria is named Taqueria Las Maripozas… or rather Panderia Y Taqueria Las Maripozas (since they have a bakery side to the left of the tacos). Whatever the name, there are $1 tacos available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (Martes y Miercoles) and menudo available on Saturdays and Sundays (Sabado y Domingo)! When it is not on Tuesday or Wednesday, tacos are priced at $1.29 each and $1.99 for Tripas. The dining area is pretty small with very limited seating but since they are serving tacos, you can stand and eat. During the afternoon to night time, the tacos are cooked outside on the storefront for the authentic feel.
I got the Al Pastor, Asada and Tripas tacos. I would not recommend the Al Pastor taco and the Asada tacos were just decent. The prices here are a lot cheaper than their next-door neighbor Taqueria Los Parados, but does the taste compare? Only you can decide.
1236 W Civic Center Dr, Santa Ana, CA 92703
Taco Tuesdays are available!
Taqueria Los Parados
Authentic tacos. Craving for authentic tacos and don’t want to get out of your car? Taqueria Los Parados has a drive-thru! A little on the pricier side ($1.67 per) along with the smaller size tacos, Taqueria Los Parados claim to have the best Al Pastor taco. Although it is decent, I wouldn’t say it is the best I’ve ever had. I got the Pineapple agua fresca (medium $3.67) and after it, I would say I am still on the hunt for the best Piña. There are also several other agua frescas available.
Alongside the drive-thru, if you decide to dine inside, the dining room is spacious equipped with LED menu screens. The interior is pretty nice for a taco place when comparing them to hole-in-the-wall taquerias. Parking is easy to find as it is located in a plaza with a parking lot.
711 N Bristol St, Santa Ana, CA 92703
Gourmet tacos. If all vegan food tasted as good as these tacos, I wouldn’t mind being a vegan. Ultimate Liberation is a four-pack of fishless fish tacos for $13.45! Sayyy whatt? Yes, there is no real meat in the tacos, the “fish” is actually made of soy. Amazing!
Many people claim it is “the best fish tacos” they’ve ever had but does it even count as a fish taco?! Don’t knock it until you try it!7862 Warner Ave, Ste 110, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Authentic tacos. Taco Mesa a great place to catch up with friends, drink margaritas, and indulge in delicious tacos. Located in various pockets of Orange County, Taco Mesa is a Mexican chain restaurant based on authentic tacos with a modern, hipster vibe. This counter-service type taco shop where you order your food and seat yourself is very lively and has an abundance of tables that may get filled up quickly on certain days. Don’t have to worry about parking though, as it is placed inside of a shopping plaza with a lot of space.
If you are looking for something other than tacos, there are a variety of other entrees to choose from such as nachos, taquitos, gorditas, sopas, tortas, enchiladas, quesadillas, and other special dishes. There are weekly discount specials (excluding Friday & Saturday) that can help ease your wallet. Taco Tuesday is especially popular here drawing in masses of people waiting to put their hands on these $1.75 tacos (available all day Tuesday). You can choose from shredded beef, shredded chicken, carnitas, fish taco, veggie, and Al Pastor. The size of the taco is at least double the size of a standard street taco. The cherry on top? $3.50 margaritas of course!
With every great taco shop lies an exceptional salsa bar. Taco Mesa has one readily available for you to grab your pickled carrots and cauliflower, limes, and salsas. There are no salsas that are particularly spicy but it was nevertheless, a great addition to my tacos.
I was content after finishing only two tacos and a margarita. I enjoyed the Al Pastor over the fish taco but they both left me satisfied. The Al Pastor wasn’t drowned in sodium and the fish was not dry. If possible, I would recommend trying all of the tacos available on Taco Tuesday.
3533 East Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92869
Taco Tuesdays are available!
Authentic tacos. Ask the locals in Anaheim where they think the best tacos in town are and they might just lead you to a small taco shop called Taqueria Escalante. Inside has about 7 tables with a limited salsa bar with your basic green sauce, red sauce, radishes, limes, onions and cilantro readily available to you to top your burritos, combination plates, tostadas, quesadillas and more. The green sauce was mild spice and the red sauce was medium spice, which means both were not very spicy but the taste went well with the tacos.
At the time, I was only able to order the Carne Asada tacos because the Al Pastor tacos were unavailable. After I finish my first taco, I could understand why there were people already crowding around the shop for minutes of opening time. The Tripas on the Tripas tacos was cooked the way it should be, a little soft and a little crispy.
You never have to worry about parking because this taqueria sits in a large parking lot. Tacos are originally $1.29 but on Tuesdays, they are available for $1. Taqueria Escalante is recommended by many and for good reason.2805 E Lincoln Ave, Anaheim, CA 92806 Taco Tuesdays are available!
El Chef Tacos
Authentic tacos. There are two types of tortillas available at El Chef Tacos, regular ($1.49) and handmade ($2.99). With the price difference between the regular and handmade, comes a bigger and meatier taco. There are the typical meats available such as Asada, Al Pastor, Lengua, Carnitas, and Barbacoa (no Tripas).
I got the Asada and Al Pastor and would suggest getting the Al Pastor and not bothering with the Asada, as the flavor of the Asada left little to be desired. Overall, the tacos were okay but they had a legit salsa bar. Here you can find 3 different sauces consisting of red, green, and avocado based. There is also pico de gallo available and you can put your own onions, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and carrots.3009 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92869 Taco Tuesdays are available!
Authentic tacos. A clean, crowded restaurant located in a very small parking lot filled with a good selection of breakfast, tacos, burritos, seafood items, hamburgers and more. Along with a great self-serve salsa bar, you get free chips with every purchase! Make sure to arrive during downtime, if possible, because the service could be slow.
Tacos are priced at $1.60 to $1.80 depending on the meat choice. Although it is a little pricier than regular street tacos, the tacos are a tad bigger than the standard size. I had the Al Pastor and Asada tacos, but at the time I purchased them, they were a bit dry and left little to be desired. The Tripas taco, on the other hand, was soft and not overcooked.
Quick tip: No Taco Tuesday specials are available but you get a free taco with a Yelp check-in!
450 S State College Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92806
Authentic tacos. Not your average taqueria shop, Gonzalez’s Restaurant is more geared towards dine-in only as there is no posted menu available. As you walk in there are tables and chairs but you would need to ask for a menu in order to choose what you want. Since this restaurant didn’t specialize in only tacos, there was no salsa bar available. You would need to ask for salsa and there are only 2 types available. One was an orange-red color which did not have much flavor to it and the other was a salsa verde, which was sourer. Both were a little watery and not spicy but the orange-red one had a slight hint of spice.
During my visit, I ordered a Carne Asada burrito and 3 tacos priced at $1.35 each. The food upon receiving, The burrito was poorly wrapped and was falling apart while trying to consume it. It consists of beans, rice, onions, cilantro and your choice of meat. Since there was no Tripas, we ordered the Carne Asada. The burrito was a bit bland no matter how much salsa I tried to put on it. I think it would’ve tasted a tad better if there was pico de gallo or a sauce of some sort on it.
As for the tacos, I also ordered Al Pastor and Carne Asada. As I opened the box, my glorious tacos looked very pleasing to the eyes. However, taste-wise I thoroughly enjoyed the Carne Asada over the Al Pastor. The Al Pastor tastes like ground beef and has a weird texture. The Carne Asada was better tasting and flavor-wise but it was not as juicy and a little drier than what I enjoy. There are also free tortilla chips the size of tostadas! I got 3 of them with my order.
1740 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92868
Taco Tuesdays are available!